Irritable Man Syndrome.
IMS. It’s real. As real as PMS in women. It’s also referred to as “andropause,” and may be responsible for the so-called mid-life crisis that triggers previously intelligent, rational males to expose their chest hair, wear entirely too much jewelry, make unnecessary purchases, and have “wandering” eyes.
And just like PMS and menopause are related, it’s possible the cycling of male hormones is responsible for seasonal fluctuations in mood and behavior in our men.
The primary male hormone is, of course, testosterone. It’s the source of all those lovely male characteristics we admire, like facial hair, big muscles and deep voices. It’s also linked to aggression. Testosterone levels rise and fall in the male system on a biweekly cycle, although those biweekly highs and lows are not as pronounced as the rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s menstrual cycle.
The variation in testosterone levels in spring and fall is noteworthy, however, even to the point of men performing better on certain kinds of tests during certain seasons.
Testosterone levels are elevated in the fall. Coinciding with hunting season, fall football, and the World Series. It’s also rutting season for deer and elk. For animals with long gestations, this makes sense. If the animal mates in the fall, the babies will be born in the spring or summer, when food is plentiful and the weather is conducive to growth and development of young. Bighorn sheep do battle with each other in the fall, ramming their heads together over and over again until they fall down or one of them gives up. Sounds like football, doesn’t it? The list of symptoms related to high testosterone levels includes things like oily skin, hair loss, and acne breakouts.
Conversely, in the spring, testosterone levels drop. Men do better on math tests in the spring. And it might seem like they would be happier, more relaxed. Not so. Low levels of testosterone have been linked to (these are also considered symptoms of andropause in men between 40 and 55 years of age): Anxiety, bouts of anger, frustration, jealousy, hot flashes, fatigue, weight gain, depression, insomnia, defensiveness, demanding behaviors, temper tantrums, unloving and sarcastic attitudes, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction.
Consider a hungry, sleepy bear coming out of hibernation and you’ve probably got a reasonable picture of a fella with low testosterone in the spring.
Now (and I admit freely this is NOT a scientific study) think about your significant other. What’s he like in the springtime? Do you tend to fight more? Does he seem irrational? Is he grouchy like an old bear? Does it seem like you have the same “discussions” every year at about the same time? Maybe you do.
Of course, visiting a doctor for this “condition” is probably not necessary, as if you could get your guy into a doctor’s office to admit to “childish tantrums” or being “demanding.” Ha! So as women, what can we do to help our men deal with their hormonal fluctuations? Bring home chocolate? Possibly. Making sure his diet contains a healthy amount of fat is important.
Diet, exercise, and rest play a definite role in male hormone levels. We might be able to do something about those factors, by encouraging exercise and providing healthy foods. (Not soy, or other phytoestrogen containing foods!) We might be able to reduce stress by creating a peaceful environment to come home to at night.
And perhaps we can do the one thing no one else can do for them that will raise testosterone levels: have sex. Frequently. Funny, that’s usually the LAST thing you feel like doing with ol’ grumbly bear-man, but it might just be part of the fix!
With spring just around the corner (in Colorado spring is always around one more corner, and then one day you wake up and it’s August), pay attention to your fella’s state of mind. Is he cranky? Instead of taking it personally and getting in a snit about his snit, show some mercy and consider he might be experiencing a bout of hormone imbalance. Unlike you, he has no real understanding of what’s happening to his body, or that it’s affecting his mind and attitude as well. And don’t make rash decisions… at least not for a couple of months! This too shall pass!